If you’re reading this, chances are you know how to search the internet for information. A certain kind of person enjoys debating the merits of using Google over Bing or discussing how AskJeeves is sorely missed.
But there is another way to find specific information on the internet. Wolfram Alpha, which refers to itself as a “knowledge engine,” is a little different than a search engine. Instead of parsing results from numerous sources and providing links, Wolfram Alpha displays an enormous amount of quantitative information directly within the confines of the website. It’s definitely worth checking out.
One cool feature of Wolfram Alpha is that you can type in a name and see a ton of information about how popular that name has been historically in the United States. Just typing in a name will show you all of the following information (for the United States):
- Rank: How that name ranks relative to other names
- Fraction: How often that name is given to a new born
- Number: How many babies are given that name per year
- Fraction Graph: The percentage of babies that have historically been given that name (shows change through time)
- Expected Total Number Alive Today: The total number of people living in the U.S. with that particular name
- Expected Population Fraction: The percentage of the U.S. population living with that particular name
- Expected Rank: That name’s relative popularity amongst the U.S. population
- Most Common Age: How old the average person is with that name
- Estimated Current Age Distribution Graph: Shows the percentage of a given age group living with that particular name
If you type in a particular name and it doesn’t bring up the above statistics, it may be because Wolfram Alpha is not reading it as a name. It will tell you at the top of the search what it thinks you are looking for. When I type in “clay” it assumes I am searching for a class of materials. All I have to do is click the link that says “use as a given name” and it will bring up all of the statistics outlined above.
Will this information change your life? Hopefully not. But it’s fun to play around with. And this is just the beginning of the cool things you can do with Wolfram Alpha. We’ll be writing more on Wolfram Alpha in the near future, but if this has piqued your curiosity, check out their Examples by Topic page for an idea of what else you can do.
Have you ever used Wolfram Alpha? What’d you think?